I was just listening to Science Friday in my car, getting pretty giddy about all the science fiction that is on its way to coming true.
Well, not really, but recently the NASA probe Cassini has detected important chemistry on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. While there is no liquid water, the basis of life as we know it on Earth, there is an abundance of methane and other hydrocarbons necessary for the intake of CO2 by theoretical “methanogens”.
“If an alternate form of life could exist with liquid methane taking the place of water in cells and other biological parts — something that’s theoretically conceivable — Titan is just the sort of place it might thrive…
So does that mean methanogenic life exists? No. In the very hedged language of the scientist, it means that conditions have been found that are consistent with the presence of that life. But “consistent with” and “evidence for” are two very different things. As McKay says in an essay posted to the Cassini website this week: “This is still a long way from ‘evidence of life’.” [But], he continues, “it is extremely interesting.”